Beyond Nomenclature: Special Education or Inclusive Education: Advocating Quality Basic Education By Onuora-Oguno Azubike LLD Candidate University of Pretoria Presented at the 7th Worldwide Conference of GAJE, Dec 10-18, 2013 Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine that a child of farm workers can become the president of a nation. Introduction Education could be described as a process that prepares an individual to be able to interact with his society positively so as to achieve both individual and communal goals. The right to education (art. 13) GC of CESCR Education is both a human right in itself and an indispensable means of realizing other human rights. As an empowerment right, education is the primary vehicle by which economically and socially marginalized adults and children can lift themselves out of poverty and obtain the means to participate fully in their communities. Education has a vital role in empowering women, safeguarding children from exploitative and hazardous labour and sexual exploitation, promoting human rights and democracy, protecting the environment, and controlling population growth. Increasingly, education is recognized as one of the best financial investments States can make. But the importance of education is not just practical: a well-educated, enlightened and active mind, able to wander freely and widely, is one of the joys and rewards of human existence. The task of realising the right to education has not being without some challenges and criticism. This has been based either on institutional criticism or instructional criticism. With particular reference to people with disability and their attendant right to education in Nigeria, the challenges are more daunting. Currently the raging debate is on whether education should be inclusive or special. While the Convention of the Rights of People with Disability, specifically calls for inclusive education (article 24), the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of a Child (article 17) calls on State parties to ensure that ‘special measures are taken to promote self-reliance and participation in the community’. Realization of the right to Basic Education: Immediate or Progressive? The realisation of economic social and cultural rights remains a daunting task especially for developing countries. The progressive approach is often adopted as several needs compete for developing states limited resources. However, the realisation of basic education is one social right that is accepted not to fall within the threshold of progressive realisation. The reason behind this is the fact that education is seen as an intrinsic right and should be realised if the aims of education are to be achieved. The Pending Challenge Aside the poor state of education the world over, the child in sub-Saharan Africa is statistically most vulnerable in the quest to attain basic education. The poor statistics on access to basic education is occasioned by numerous factors. Most children in Africa face either the dangers of forceful conscription into armed hostilities; child trafficking and slavery; child prostitution and denial of basic needs occasioned by poverty; thus affecting either their access or completion rate in schools. A Child With Disability (CWD) is further relegated to the background occasioned by the conditions of learning disabilities. Children who are differently abled or as popularly referred to as disabled children find themselves at the lower rung of the discrimination and denial already suffered by children Special and Inclusive Education in Perspective ‘Special education is assumed to be grounded on the achievements of people like Jeane-March Gaspard Itard and Anne Sullivan Macy’, the achievements of teaching children with some form of disability in isolation from other children ensure that the tag special education was adapted in educating of CWD. The need for special education was conceived as a CWD was perceived to have need for greater attention to ensure the child is able to benefit from school activities. In this respect, ‘special education policies are articulated in terms of concern for the individual and the challenge of ensuring that individual needs are identified and met’ Special education is further motivated from the social and medical perspectives. While the former focuses on the environmental challenges the latter is occupied with ‘individual who needs fixing-either by therapy, medicine, surgery or special treatment’. Inclusive education basically interpreted encapsulates the ‘movement seeking to create schools that meet the needs of all students by establishing learning communities for students with and without disabilities’ The quest to move from special education to inclusive education was highlighted by UNESCO in 1994 in Salamanca when it stated that: Special needs education is an issue of equal concern to countries…it has to form part of an overall education strategy and indeed of new social and economic policies. It calls for major reform of the ordinary school. In article 2 it reinforces the importance of embracing inclusive education when it provides that: We believe and proclaim that: Every child has a fundamental right to education, and must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning, Every child has unique characteristics, interests, abilities and learning needs, Education systems should be designed and educational programmes implemented to take into account the wide diversity of these characteristics and needs, Those with special educational needs must have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within a child centred pedagogy capable of meeting these needs, Regular schools with this inclusive orientation are the most effective means of combating discriminatory attitudes, creating welcoming communities, building an inclusive society and achieving education for all; moreover, they provide an effective education to the majority of children and improve efficiency and ultimately the cost-effectiveness of the entire education system. inclusion as adapted in this paper and advanced is as conceptualized by Vislie: Inclusion is not: — focusing on an individual or small group of pupils for whom the curriculum is adapted, different work is devised or support assistants are provided; — about how to assimilate individual pupils with identified special educational needs into existing forms of schooling. Inclusion is: — a process (rather than a state), by which a school attempts to respond to all pupils as individuals; — regards inclusion and exclusion as connected processes; schools developing more inclusive practices may need to consider both; — emphasizes the reconstructing of curricular provision in order to reach out to all pupils as individuals; — emphasizes overall school effectiveness; — is of relevance to all phases and types of schools, possibly including special schools, since within any educational provision teachers face groups of students with diverse needs and are required to respond to this diversity. L Vislie ‘from integration to inclusion: focusing global trends and changes in the western European societies’ (2003) European Journal of Special Needs Education Vol 18 No 1, 21. Legal and Policy regime of Inclusive Education Applicable to Nigeria The Nigerian Constitution of 1999 provides for education in section 18. Education is advanced as mere fundamental objective of state principles and in some quarters is perceived as not demanding a positive responsibility from the state in ensuring the realisation of education. The Universal Basic Education Act of 2004 remains the major document that regulates the basis for the quest for the realisation of access to basic education in Nigeria. Presently the National Policy of Education of 2013 is the policy document that stipulates in further details the aspiration of the nation’s philosophy of education. Global and Regional Human Rights Laws UDHR article 26. CESCR article 13 & 14. ACHPR article 17. CRC article 28. ACHRWC 11. Notwithstanding the various provisions of the above mentioned treaties, the need to protect the specific interest of persons suffering from disability became a front burner in the discus of international human rights law. The Convention on the Rights of People with Disability (CRPD) was also adopted Article 24 of the CRPD reads: 2. In realizing this right, States Parties shall ensure that: Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or from secondary education, on the basis of disability; Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities in which they live; Reasonable accommodation of the individual’s requirements is provided; Persons with disabilities receive the support required, within the general education system, to facilitate their effective education; Effective individualized support measures are provided in environments that maximize academic and social development, consistent with the goal of full inclusion. Article 2 CRPD Inclusive or Special: Moving Beyond Nomenclature Embracing Quality An important factor to consider in the question of the realisation of education of CWD is to ensure that access, availability and adaptability are enhanced. In the first instance, whether in special or inclusive school system, access must be ensured. This deals with the provision of support for children either physically challenged or otherwise. The availability concept must ensure that opportunity and sufficiency of school must take care of the need of CWD. The question of ability of teachers who are not trained and lack skills to assist CWD looms large and raises issues of economic urgency for states. According to Ajuwon ‘Often, it is gratifying that where school and community environments can be made physically and programmatically accessible, children and youth with physical disabilities can function more effectively than would otherwise be the case. It is also apparent that such modifications to the environment often enable others who do not have disabilities to access their environment even more readily’. The huge criticism of special education is grounded on the ‘us and them’ nomenclature that is argued to create room for definite discrimination and unequal treatment. Special is seen as connoting the treatment of CWD because of the peculiar circumstance which is seen as ultimately discriminatory and derogatory. It must however, be appreciated that the historical emergence of the concept of special education was to ensure that every individual has access to education. Inclusive education is a highly visible yet contentious notion in contemporary education reform because of conceptual, historical, and pragmatic reasons. From a conceptual perspective, the definition of inclusion is still debated, ranging from physical placement in general education classrooms to the transformation of entire educational systems. Emphasis provided, this is to provide the understanding that rather than dwell on nomenclature, the need for a transformation towards quality is imperative. Capturing a wider scope of inclusive education, it must be reiterated that inclusions goes beyond education of just persons with disabilities but also ensuring the elimination of all forms of clogs that may deter any individual from realizing access to basic education in terms of minorities, languages and even cultures. In view of a broader interpretation of the notion of inclusive, it is opined here that special education itself can provide a basis of quality if a progressive model of ensuring that the school system is empowered to eliminate all forms of inequalities is pursued vigorously. The underlying factor in inclusive education must commence on the basis that ‘classroom teachers have basic knowledge and understanding about the needs of different learners; teaching techniques and curriculum strategies’. Aside the role of the teachers and pupils, there is need to also inculcate an inclusive mentality in the society so as to encourage and build a healthy learning environment described as ‘a society open and accessible to all’. Conclusions it has also been argued that the concept of inclusion does not necessary mean inclusive, advancing this notion it is opined that there is the need to reconceptualise the definition of the inclusive notion. This argument suites the authors position that the process of inclusion must be followed with caution as it is not one that can be embraced in a hurry. It is therefore one that must be followed with a gradual guarantee of quality in the educational structure that is presently in place. An identified merit of special education system is seen from the fact that the chances of CWD suffering discriminatory language in the school space are limited as opposed to the chances in the inclusive education setup. Recommendations The present treatment of education responsibility as a mere obligation is therefore not encouraged. Almost, all African countries provides for the right to education within their various Constitutions but treating them as mere aspiration that should be met. However, South Africa remains an exception with its non qualification of the right to education. Law Clinics must engage issues of quality basic education in the communities as this is the only means via which their advocacy would get maximum results.